Tottleworth Docks

Website Information

What's New?

Why not try the "Interactive Map" of Rishton, move your mouse over the map and click on the hotspots to open the page.

Search This Website


Today in Rishton..

Current Weather

Currently Unavailable

Latest News Headlines

Currently Unavailable

For more news on Rishton use this link

Website Visitors

(See the web stats page in the utilities section of the site for previous visitors)

Since February 2009 -

free counters
Pack Horse and Funnels
A caravan of pack horses arrives at the dock. The funnels off a steamer currently loaded can be seen in the foreground
Port Huon crossing Rishton reservoir, inbound to load at Tottleworth docks. The mountains that are the New Inns can clearly be seen in the background.
(Photograph supplied and used with permission of Great Harwood Appreciation Society)

Once a busy inland port, Tottleworth, is now but a shadow of its former glory. The docks, a feature here since early Saxon times, thrived during the late 17th and 18th century. Tottleworth was the main port for the export of treacle collected in the mines of Great Harwood and for bricks manufactured at The Norden, Holt and Queens Brickworks.

In later years the docks were to export the Snuff, manufactured in Snuffy Arrod, to Countries around the globe.

In days gone by an endless trail of carts, pack horses and transport of all descriptions could be seen arriving from the west down Moor Lane and from the north and south along Tottleworth Road.

Medieval Cargo
Medieval Cargo vessel, possibly even Saxon, arriving in Tottleworth Docks from the Reservoir. (
Photograph supplied and used with permission of Ian Fairclough - from an original transcript.
Port Huon crossing Rishton reservoir, inbound to load at Tottleworth docks. The mountains that are the New Inns can clearly be seen in the background.
(Photograph supplied and used with permission of Great Harwood Appreciation Society)

Sadly with the arrival of the Leeds and Liverpool Canal in 1810 trade through the docks was considerably reduced.

However what is overlooked is that the Hesketh family (of Rufford Hall), who owned Manor Farm, or Hesketh House as it was known, who owned Tottleworth, and most of Great Harwood, invested heavily over hundreds of years in the docks and that the loss of income after the canal was pushed through was a major factor in the sale of both the Great Harwood and Tottleworth estates by Sir Thomas Dalrymple Hesketh  in 1819 to the Dunkenhalgh Estate, for Tottleworth, and the Lomax's in Great Harwood.

The opening of Rishton Railway Station in 1852 and the Great Harwood loop line in 1877 saw the end of the Tottleworth Harbour Company and the docks soon fell into a state of disrepair.

The end came early in the Second World War when the cranes, moorings and every last scrap of metal were removed to help the war effort.

Man O War
H. M. S. Man O' War moored at Tottleworth Dock during World War II
A rough Crossing on the Reservoir during the War years.

It was possibly about this time that the local ale house changed its name from the "Jolly Mariner" to the "Cemetery Hotel", later to become known as the Lidgett hotel of course.

Not many people know this, but small coasters used to be able to navigate the Lidgett brook as far up as the rear of the then Jolly Mariner. There was a small quay where goods could be unloaded. Much of the tobacco and snuff (hence 'Snuffy') in Arrod came in via this route. The bulk of it came as contraband and passed through the cellars of the pub. An old legend has it that there was a tunnel from the cellar which broke into old mine workings which allowed the contraband to moved away to Martholme and what is now Poplar Avenue,

Busy Docks
The docks in busier times.
A rough Crossing on the Reservoir during the War years.

This under the noses of, but away from the eyes, of the Revenue.

The locals were always too clever for the revenue officers because the officers were Blackburners.

The coming of the railway sealed, literally, the fate of shipping on the Lidgett brook. Unable to beat the smugglers, the Revenue hatched a cunning plan by greasing the palms of the Navvies digging the railway cuttings, and spoil from the Tottleworth viaduct was allowed to block the Lidgett.

The Tottleworth docks lived on for some number of years as they were down stream of the railway.

The price of tobacco and snuff in Great Harwood rose as Rishtoners took over the supply of black market goods received through their docks. This created bad feeling between the communities but in the end Great Harwood folk came out best. Many locals stopped smoking and saved their money, and as the building boom gathered pace in the late 19th century they were able to buy into property with gusto. Hence the saying 'Folk in Great Harwood own their own house - - and the one next door '

The importance of tea smuggling at Tottleworth has also been forgotten. When all around were drinking small ale, 'Arroders were staying sober and hard-working, at least during the week, and buying property. At the weekends, I'm sure they were drinking a magnificent October Brew or smuggled Scotch and French wines. (This is why they are all natural connesieurs, today.)

The last ship to visit the dock, before the waterway became silted up and un-navigable, was H.M.S. Man o’ War.

The New Bridge built in 1912
The harbour masters house in 1912, on the left, locals await the next ferry boat to the reservoir.
A rare picture of the cranes that were dismantled from the docks for the War effort.

The trawler converted for anti-submarine warfare and commissioned by the Royal Navy was financed by donations from the people of Rishton to the tune of £119,000.

It was thought appropriate that the docks be used for one last time so the captain and crew could pay tribute to the township.

On the 11th June 1953, The Council Chairman reported on the views of the Education Divisional Executive regarding the unfenced access to the canal from Hermitage Street Bridge, and it was Resolved that the Clerk communicate with the Docks and Inland Waterways Executive, Showing that the Dock Authority in Rishton still existed at the time.

These days virtually nothing remains of the docks and only those with a vivid imagination and an over indulgence in spirits would ever believe it existed.

And so it begins.................

I'm wondering if it is just extreme co-incidence that the tale of Tottleworth Docks t'was heard the other week, a tale, I have to be honest, I found hard to believe. Being of open mind however, I looked at the evidence and decided there must be some truth in the stories, especially as my Great Uncle Bill had often warned me as a child to stay away from "bootleggin' rishtoners"... never giving any reason as to why I should stay away.. I just knew that I should.. He didn't actually mention the docks or the smugglers, but I now feel he must have known of them as he often said

"T'were them there rishtoners  as got the Golden Ball "

"The Golden Ball, Uncle Bill" I'd say,

"Aye... the Golden Ball lass" he would reply, putting his ration of chewin' baccy in his mouth, "The Golden Ball", his tired voice trailing away..

I never found out from him the full story of the Golden Ball,  Great Auntie Hetty used to interrupt the tale at this point saying 'Our Lynn didn't need to know such things'..' it was just the ramblins of 'owd chaps wi' nowt better to do anymore than meck up tales'

And so it was.

Until one weekend, when on Saturday my good friend  and Rishtonite , Trish took me to her mums caravan which is on a park by the river Lune and where we were to stay for the evening after a meal out.

On the Sunday morning, the weather was horrendous and we decided to laze about and visit the local pub for lunch before setting off home. I have been before but never when the weather was so bad. We entered the pub by the rear entrance and much to my surprise, through the front windows I could only see -well- sea. There was no longer a road past the pub and into the caravan park... there was just steely grey water.

A nanno second of panic. Then I realised we were trapped in a pub and the relief was instant. This was turning into an adventure.

"How often does this happen then?" I quizzed sipping my brandy.

A deep voice from behind me in the shadows answered. "When the tide is high...." and at that very moment the jukebox whirred.... It was hard not to giggle...

"Where you from then?" asked the voice.

"Great Harwood" was my prompt reply.

"I'd keep that quiet if I were you" the voice warned "Folk round here don't take kindly to 'Arroders' was them as stole our Golden Ball in days long past, sailing it along, secret, lost inland waterways till it reached Tottleworth Docks - a task only possible at high tide and only once every one hundred years.. a chap called Wee Wilkie was one of the gang - sold it to the landlord of the Jolly Mariner he did."

"The Golden Ball - What Golden Ball?" I was truly gobsmacked. Was this the same Golden Ball of my childhood? His finger pointed towards the window. Outside, the pub sign was blowing madly in the wind. A round golden ball was pictured on the sign, surrounded by fine painted letters -The Golden Ball.

"The spike at the top held the golden ball and when the sun came up, it's rays would bounce of it's side like a great golden star" the voice informed me.

I started to feel a little uncomfortable - what on earth was I doing here. What the heck had I got to do with the Golden Ball??  After a little thought, I realised I was here to clear the good name of all 'Arrod Folk .Wee Wilkie must have been a Rishtonian like my Uncle Bill had said!.

"'Arroders, did not steal your Golden Ball I declared .. I am sure it was those Rishtoners as the old folk tell" I assured the Luners.

Everything fell into place. I promised the Lune folk I would ask the whereabouts of their Golden Ball on my return home.

Well, flushed with relief and warmed by the brandy I sat by the fire. Soon after, Trish suggested I should sup up as the tide had turned allowing our exit from the site. She was keen to leave before dark. Navigation of Tocky Docks after dark is almost impossible she thought to herself....

Reluctantly I drained my glass, turned my back to the log fire to bid farewell to my storyteller. He was gone and I'd never asked his name! I paid him on a rum...

I slept soundly on the way home untroubled with dreams of Jack Sparrow and Golden Balls....

So today , as promised I ask the people of 'Arrod  Do you know the whereabouts of the Golden Ball? Is there any truth to this tale? Aren't they just getting mixed up with the legendary 'Arrod Ball?

As for the Golden Ball... have you ever been? It is also known as Snatchem, you know, from the sailors that were hoisted whilst drunk years ago..

From an original idea conceived one Sunday afternoon after several pints of beer in the Royal and Victoria Pubs.


Lynn Thompson

David Haworth

Great Harwood Appreciation Society

John Duckworth

Ian Fairclough